BATON ROUGE – Shanece McKinney poured in a career-high 19 points, and the No. 14 LSU women’s basketball team won for the fifth time on the season when trailing at halftime by using a steady diet of paint points en route to a 65-56 victory over Mississippi State Thursday at the Maravich Center.
LSU (17-4, 6-2 SEC) won its eighth straight decision over Mississippi State (15-7, 2-6 SEC). The victory also enabled the Lady Tigers to remain in a third-place tie in the SEC standings.
“Shanece has come into her own as being that post defender on the low block,” head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Offensively, when you’re 100 percent from the field and the free throw line – that’s being very focused in scoring the basketball. Shanece is that player that every year she has improved. I don’t think she gets rattled. I think she is doing exactly what her talent has been allowing her to do. She came up with some key rebounds, blocks and steals.”
LSU won the game after they trailed at the half, 36-31. In the second half, the Lady Tigers repeatedly pounded the ball in the paint often for easy layups.
After pounding it down low, Jeanne Kenney hit a three-pointer in which she was fouled which ended up being a four-point play that built LSU to its biggest lead of the night at 48-36 with 8:23 remaining.
The three-pointer was the only one LSU would take in the second half as LSU shot over 65 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes and took advantage of a 26-8 margin in the paint. For the game, the paint points margin was 38-18.
For the third time this season, LSU had four players in double figures. McKinney was a flawless 7-for-7 from the floor and knocked down all five of her free throws attempts. The 19 points eclipsed her previous career-best of 15 points against Nicholls State during the 2010-11 season. It also gave McKinney three straight games in double figures.
Raigyne Moncrief garnered a SEC season-high of 17 points, while Kenney added 13 points and seven assists. The reigning SEC Player of the Week, Theresa Plaisance, secured 12 points to run her streak to 11 consecutive outings with 10-plus points. LSU’s seniors of Kenney, McKinney and Plaisance accounted for 44 of the team’s 66 points.
“I just focused in on making all of my layups,” McKinney said. “That’s the big thing we’ve been working on in practice, focusing in on the backboard and shot faking.”
Mississippi State was paced by Katia May who was the only player in double figures with 12.
In the second half, LSU produced an efficient 17-of-26 shooting clip. For the game, the Tigers would shoot over 50 percent and made 25-of-48. LSU, after making 15 first-half turnovers, committed just four in the final 20 minutes. Meanwhile, LSU shot just 34.7 percent for the game whereas the Bulldogs were the ones that ended up committing 20 turnovers.
The teams struggled offensively in the first half of play and combined for 15 turnovers in the first eight minutes. LSU was only able to get off five shots in its first 15 possessions but one was a nifty inbounds with one second on the 30-second shot clock to Plaisance who beat the buzzer and laid it in.
The game was tied four times at 2, 4, 6, and 8 with LSU taking an 11-8 lead on a trey by Kenney on a four-shot possession for LSU. State cut the margin to 11-10, but Plaisance took a pass from Kenney and scored to make it 13-10.
Kenney scored on LSU’s next possession to up the margin to 15-10 and a turnover led to an easy DaShawn Harden bucket that upped LSU’s lead to 17-10 off a 9-2 Lady Tiger run which forced a timeout by Mississippi State.
State began chipping away at the lead at the free throw line, getting two by Kendra Grant and three by Savannah Carter to cut the lead to 17-15 and after an exchange of field goals, Grant made one more free toss to cut the lead to 19-18 for LSU with six minutes to go in the half.
The Lady Tigers continued to turn the ball over and gave Mississippi State a chance to take the lead which it did on a three pointer by May, 21-19, at the 5:13 mark. Carter put in her own trey and extended the lead to 24-19 on the Lady Tigers.
State’s pressure man-to-man defense was giving LSU all kinds of fits forcing the Lady Tigers to run the shot clock almost all the way down. LSU had 14 turnovers in the first 17 minutes and State posted 11 points off those turnovers.
LSU finally stopped the 9-0 run on a pair of Moncrief free throws that made it 24-21 State inside of two minutes. But May came down after an LSU miss, faked a three at the top of the key and drove in for a layup that extended the Bulldog lead to 26-21 at the 1:14 mark. The half ended with the Bullldogs up by that five-point margin.
LSU connected on four of its first five shots of the second half to take a 29-28 lead with 17:48 to go in the game. Plaisance and McKinney each had two buckets in the paint to spark the run. Breanna Richardson got her first bucket to give Mississippi State back the lead on the sixth lead change of the game, 30-29, at the 17:16 mark. McKinney got LSU back the lead on an offensive put back, 33-31.
LSU then forced a shot clock violation and Moncrief got LSU another layup to put LSU up four, 35-31. But just when LSU looked comfortable, May hit her second three to cut it 35-34.
In the first 8:44 of the second half, LSU had eight buckets, six of which were layups and had a 37-34 lead. The Lady Tigers also in that period had an 8-1 advantage in points off turnovers and 6-1 in second chance points as they were definitely the more aggressive team coming out of the dressing room.
Plaisance had a driving layup that made it 39-34 and then LSU forced a backcourt violation and got McKinney scored as LSU suddenly matched its biggest lead of the game at seven points, 41-34.
LSU continued to bury Mississippi State inside and then Kinney rammed one home from three-point distance that turned into a four-point play with a foul and a 48-36 lead for the Lady Tigers with 8:23 to play.
Then the buckets came easier for the Lady Tigers as they got two run out layups to keep the margin at 12, 52-40, forcing a State time out at the 6:16 mark. LSU made 13-of-its-first 21 shots in the half.
But State went on a 7-0 run, highlighted by three-pointer by Ketara Chapel that cut the game to 52-47. The teams exchanged free throws to make it a 54-49 game at the 3:59 mark in favor of the Lady Tigers. LSU continued to get the ball inside and made free throws down the stretch to wrap up the win.
“I’m looking for an LSU team to play for 40 minutes,” Caldwell said. “I don’t like waiting until the second half to really play some great basketball. We have to graduate from that. I’m proud of my team for staying the course in the second half. I give a lot of credit to Mississippi State for testing us in the first half and forcing all those turnovers. We’ve got to clean that up immediately as we go forward in our season.”
LSU will play its third consecutive Sunday on the road and travels to No. 13 Kentucky. Tip time is slated for 11 a.m. CT, and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Network (FSN) along with http://www.watchespn.com/.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast the game on Talk 107.3 FM in the Baton Rouge and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuwbkb along with @lsuwbkb and @nikkicaldwell on Twitter.
LSU Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
“I’m looking for an LSU team to play for 40 minutes. I don’t like waiting until the second half to really play some great basketball. We have to graduate from that. I’m proud of my team for staying the course in the second half. I give a lot of credit to Mississippi State for testing us in the first half and forcing all those turnovers. We’ve got to clean that up immediately as we go forward in our season.”
On the differences between the team’s play in the first and second half…
“I thought in the second half we went to more of our isolation looks, and we did not want to expose the basketball. We put the ball in certain people’s hands, and I thought that eliminated a lot of those turnovers. In the first half, all of the people that played had at least one turnover. Danielle Ballard and Jeanne Kenney were the leaders in that category. Defensively, we did a nice job of mixing things up. I thought we had a lot more intensity on the defensive end as well.”
On her message to the team at halftime…
“I heard what they had to say – what they thought was good and what they thought was bad. I encouraged them to take care of the basketball. I told them, ‘This is how we’ll help you. You’ll either commit to it or you don’t. When you do, we’ll be okay. We talked about how we could eliminate our turnovers and what play action we should run to help them. I thought we weren’t good in transition. Our transition offense wasn’t good. I thought Raigyne Moncrief just played aggressively, and she played like she couldn’t be stopped. That set the tone for us in the second half.”
On Shanece McKinney’s emergence in the past two seasons…
“Shanece has come into her own as being that post defender on the low block. Martha Alwal is a very good offensive player, and I thought Shanece did a very nice job of really trying to limit her touches. Offensively, when you’re 100 percent from the field and the free throw line – that’s being very focused in scoring the basketball. Shanece is that player that every year she has improved. I liked that she has become the clean up woman for those offensive rebounds. I don’t think she gets rattled. I think she is doing exactly what her talent has been allowing her to do. She came up with some key rebounds, blocks and steals. She was just silent defensively, and I liked the fact that we can go to her on the low block and her score the basketball for us. When we have her and Theresa doing that, that’s a good combination.”
On trusting Raigyne Moncrief to handle the ball with Mississippi State’s pressure…
“Raigyne’s been in that situation in New York playing against Rutgers’ defense. She’s been exposed to this type of pressure. I like the fact that she played aggressively off of the highball screen action, and she was making the correct reads off of it. When you have a player like Raigyne with that foot speed, it’s hard to get it front of her and stop it. She’s just a really explosive basketball player. We want to spread the floor and give her as much open room to go do what she does best.”
On what the seniors, who scored 44 of the team’s 65 points, means to this team…
“You want your seniors to be the leaders. You want them to be the example, and they’re being just that. I like the fact that we have three seniors that understand what it means to compete. I told them before the second half, ‘This time is going fast and we’ve got to enjoy the moment. We also have to go out there and perform like the other players that put their sweat equity on this court.’ We were able to dig a little deeper, but it started from them. Without our seniors, it wouldn’t be as fun. They keep it light. They make you want to come and work with them everyday and they’re great ambassadors for our University.”
On what to tell the team before heading to Kentucky…
“You tell them a lot of things because we talk about how we have to play this game, especially on the road. We talk about how we’ve had to go into a hostile environment and how we’ve won. We’ve talked about first and foremost that we were very cohesive and very together and have tight huddles. When a player was on the floor, four people ran toward them. The bench energy was great. Those are the things that you remind them of, and those are the things that make a difference of whether you can go to Kentucky and beat Kentucky. It’s going to be a battle. We also tell them it’s about preparation the next two days and here on out. No matter what happens, it’s about family. If you’re not playing for the woman next to you, then you need to turn right back around and go back out.”
LSU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYER QUOTES
C SHANECE MCKINNEY
On if this game felt like one of the best of her career…
“It did. I just focused in on making all of my layups. That’s the big thing we’ve been working on in practice, focusing in on the backboard and shot faking. Especially with Martha (Alwal) being a shot blocker.”
On if she feels that she has stepped into a new role for the team…
“I feel like Coach (Caldwell) has always emphasized for me that I need to be a great offensive rebounder, and tonight it just kind of flourished. It has always been my role, I just kind of went above it tonight I guess.”
On how comfortable she felt tonight…
“It just started off on the defensive end. That’s what gets me started every time. Once we started doing well defensively, I just started getting rebounds and pushing the ball.”
On she felt about her game, 7 assists but shots weren’t falling…
“We had to pound it in the paint. I thought we did, and we did work. We exploited their defense in the paint. Once again, our post players did the work to get the ball. Some of those passes were just pure luck on my part and pure athleticism to jump up and grab it. But I kept shooting. That’s kind of all shooters’ mentality, you have to keep shooting no matter what’s happening. You have to get some two’s if your three’s aren’t falling. It’s the flow of the game thing too. Shot selection was really important. Everyone played a role. It’s really nice when everyone comes together, and we have multiple double digit scorers.”
On the mood at half time after a poor first half…
“It was definitely the sense of we’ve been here before. This is ridiculous – when are we going to pull ourselves up and come out fighting from the beginning. Like Coach (Caldwell) said in the locker room, we know we have fight. We’ve proven it time and time again, but when are we going to put together 40 minutes. Coming out (to start the game) we weren’t focused. Those turnovers were mental mistakes. In that aspect, we had to clean it up. We knew what we had to do. Everything was in our control. There was nothing Mississippi State was doing offensively or defensively, it was us. That is the main focus of our practices. It’s all focused on us because we are our own worst enemy. We’re going to be the ones to beat ourselves.”